Once I had recognized the taste of the crumb of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime flowers which my aunt used to give me...immediately the old gray house, where her room was, rose up like a stage set...the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents...the country roads we took when it was fine.
This lovely sponge cake with its tender crumb is a beautiful little accompaniment to tea. Madeleines carry a most delicate perfume of orange flower, only subtly detected if one were to savor each curved, fluted shell.
The True Madeleine
Unfortunately, there are many, many inferior Madeleine recipes, some even call for lemon or orange zest and no orange flower water at all. The beauty of the true Madeleine is the lovely scent of orange flower and its delicate shape, as they are only made in shell-shaped pans.
This is the original Commercy, France recipe from 1755. It is a simple, simple recipe, and the only ingredient you may not have on hand perhaps would be the orange flower water. Just make sure to purchase an orange flower water suitable for cooking.
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 c superfine sugar
2/3 c butter
6 eggs
1 tbs orange flower water
Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly butter then lightly flour molds. Sift flour and baking powder together. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Add eggs to the butter and sugar. Sift flour and baking powder mixture into the butter, sugar, egg mixture. Stir in orange flower water. Spoon into molds. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn Madeleines out onto a wire cooling rack.